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Birth and Baptismal Certificate for Georg Henrich Wetzel

ca. 1800
Origin: America, Virginia
Primary Support: 8 1/16 x 6 7/16in. (20.5 x 16.4cm) and Framed: 11 3/4 x 10in.
Ink or ink and watercolor on laid paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1984.305.2
Much of the space on the vertically formatted sheet is occupied by a decoratively edged circle. Lettering in German appears both inside and outside the circle. The circle is topped by a cross, and its border is filled with V-shapes in alternating lines and dots; the Vs are in alternating colors (black and rust) and off the sides of the circle spring C-scrolls alternating with dots. The three largest words written at the top are outlined in black and filled with rust color. The rest of the wording is created in words or phrases written in alternating black and rust colors. Most wording falls inside the circle, but about a fifth fills the space left at the bottom, and three words and the date, "1775," are written at the top above the circle.

Artist unidentified.

The 1 3/4-inch splayed mahogany-veneered frame is a mid-nineteenth-century replacement.
Label:The alternating use of two different colors in the lettering and in the circular design adds to the decorative quality of this simple piece. The certificate contains the usual information regarding the dates of the subject's birth and baptism, but the wording is simlar to that of a "gottelbrief," or "godparents' letter," a type of record common in Europe but rarely found among surviving Virginia fraktur.
The existence of a very similar certificate made for Elisabeth Wetzel, who was born on December 3, 1801, suggests that George's record may have been made some years after his 1775 birth [note 1].
Provenance:See the enclosure received with vendor Mary K. Holt's letter of 4/11/1984, which indicates that 1984.305.1, 1984.305.2, and 1984.305.3 were all given to her and her husband, Mat Holt, about 1959 by Miss Virginia Bernice Tillman (4/4/1881-12/23/1973).
Miss Tillman inherited the frakturs from her parents, Ruhama Wetzel Tillman (3/26/1838-6/16/1917) and Zachary Taylor Tillman (2/4/1833-10/22/1906). Ruhama Wetzel Tillman was a daughter of David D. Wetzel (6/6/1809-11/27/1835), for whom 1984.305.1 was made, and his wife, Margaret Hardman Wetzel (11/13/1813-9/15/1900).
Mark(s):No watermark found.
Inscription(s):In German, the ink inscriptions read: (heading above circle) "1775/Heit ist Der"; (within circle) "selbig tag den Gott/hat erkorn und du mein lie:/bes kind Geog Henrich Wetzell/bist auf diesse welt gebohren durch Gottes gnad und barmhertzigkeit/Gott wolle dir viel glieck heil und segen/geben und ein langes leben dass winsch/ich meinem lieben kind Georg Hen:/rich Wetzel so lang er lebt gebohren/Den 24 Abrill 1775 ist zur/Heiligen Tauff getragen/worden Den 11"; (under the circle) "Mäy/Mäy/Ich Georg Honig ver/bleibe dein getreue gettel margred/wetzlerin so lang ich leb."
The above inscriptions have been translated as follows: "1775 Today is the same day which God has chosen and you, my dear child Georg Henrich Wetzel, were born into this world through God's grace and mercy. May God give you much good fortune, salvation and blessing and a long life. I wish that for my dear child Georg Henrich Wetzel as long as he lives. Born April 24, 1775, brought to Holy Baptism the 11th of May. I Georg Honig remain your true godfather as long as I live. I remain your true godmother Margred Wetzlerin as long as I live." [This translation was provided by Pastors Frederick S. Weiser and Larry Neff, October 1983; see the original in the object file].
On the reverse, in ink, in a hand that differs from that on the front, is a brief, illegible inscription that possibly ends in the word "Wetzel".